From Las Vegas to Malaysia to China and now Mexico, the PGA Tour's globetrotting fall season is coming to a close. What stood out these past several weeks, and who shook off the jetlag the best?
Our scribes weigh in on those topics and more in this week's edition of Monday Four-Ball.
1. With one fall event remaining, which has been the most entertaining so far?
SportsCenter anchor Jonathan Coachman: I am a big fan of players winning when you know it truly means something to them. It was fun to watch Peter Malnati hold off William McGirt on a Monday to win the Sanderson Farms Championship for the first win of his career. Life literally changes when you make $800,000, and your next two years on tour are now set. Oh, and there's that whole qualifying for the Masters thing.
ESPN.com senior golf analyst Michael Collins: Vegas, baby! (I finally have a reason to use that saying.) The Shriners Hospital for Children Open was won by a guy named Smylie, who dropped a final-round 61 that included a back-nine 29 and a birdie on the final hole. When golfers stand on the practice green, the thought in most of their minds is, "This is for birdie to win..." And Smylie did it for real as rookie on the PGA Tour!
ESPN.com senior golf writer Bob Harig: The CIMB Classic in Malaysia. The tournament had a strong leaderboard, with Adam Scott finishing a shot behind up-and-coming second-year player Justin Thomas, who got his first PGA Tour victory. Thomas overcame a late double-bogey by making birdies on three straight holes, then knocking in a 6-footer for par at the last to win.
ESPN.com senior golf writer Jason Sobel: Give me the CIMB Classic. Justin Thomas is an exciting young player with a terrific future. Seeing him break through for that initial victory was not only entertaining, but it should endure as the most memorable image of the 2015-16 fall season.
2. How impressive was it for Russell Knox to earn his first win in China, then bounce back to contend in Mexico, some 12,000 miles away?
Coachman: I was so impressed with his last eight days. I don't know if people understand how hard it is to play worldwide and win in China and then have to get on a plane and fly to Mexico to compete. Knox admittedly was on fumes heading into the Monday finish. Knox understands how rare being in contention happens. I was impressed that he kept true to his commitment and didn't just go to Mexico to play a couple of rounds of golf.
Collins: Today, players are getting used to globe-trotting golf, so it's not as impressive as it would have been in Gary Player's day. Remember last year? Jordan Spieth traveled between Australia and Orlando in the late-fall, giving everyone a clue to what was coming in 2015. I think we may see things like this happen more often on the PGA Tour, and we already see it on the LPGA Tour.
Harig: It might be more impressive that he's played all five weeks so far of the new season. Starting in Northern California for the Frys.com Open, he's gone to Las Vegas, Malaysia, China and now Mexico. That's tough enough. To top it, he's also won a tournament and put himself in position to win another.
Sobel: I'll be the first to admit that I didn't expect a whole lot from Knox this week. He's the only player to compete during each of the first five weeks of the season, has traveled (by my count) about 26,000 miles the past month and was fresh off that first title. So yeah, consider me very impressed at his ability to keep that momentum going halfway across the world.
3. Patrick Reed: Good or bad idea to play both tours?
Coachman: I don't personally like it because I just think it's impossible to play at the top of your game doing that. The difference in tours is that tournaments take place in so many different countries and continents. On the PGA Tour, the travel isn't nearly as hard because it stays mainly in North America. If you are going to play both tours, do it when you are young and at the top of your game. Right now, Patrick Reed seems to thrive playing overseas. Go where the money is.
Collins: Bad idea. Especially this year when the PGA Tour schedule is so crammed in the summer because of the Olympics. After his playoff loss in Tampa in March, he didn't have another top 10 on the PGA Tour until the Deutsche Bank the first week of September. Maybe globetrotting around during an Olympic and Ryder Cup year isn't the best thing if you're trying win more.
Harig: It's a good idea, if managed properly -- which for Reed appears to be the case for now. You'd hardly know he was a European Tour member until late in the year. His first five events and seven of his first eight were majors or WGCs played in the U.S. He's played in Hong Kong, twice in China and now is 15th in the Race to Dubai standings (in position to earn a nice bonus) heading to this week's season-ending event in Dubai -- which gives him plenty of time to regroup for 2016 on both tours. Playing well helps, and Reed is taking advantage.
Sobel: It's a good idea -- as long as the player is into it. Reed certainly seems like he is, with four top-10 finishes in Asia in his last four starts. It shouldn't be so uncommon for American players to compete overseas. They only need a few more starts other than majors and WGCs ,and let's face it: Plenty of European players do the opposite every year.
4. What do you make of Sergio Garcia skipping Dubai?
Coachman: Sergio Garcia has certainly earned the right to decide what he wants to do. But to me, part of being on a tour is showing up at the biggest events. It's not always about the money. But if you play all year and qualify for the final event and then choose not to show up, it's not OK. But heck, he skipped the first two FedEx Cup events and then failed to qualify for the Tour Championship. It's his choice, but Sergio needs to realize he is a draw and should show up.
Collins: I don't have an issue with it at all. This calendar year, Garcia has played in 21 events combined on the PGA and European Tours and missed only one cut. It would make me a real hypocrite if I was complaining that the season is too long, yet scolding Garcia for not playing enough. The goal for any golfer is finding the perfect balance between winning tournaments and taking time off. He hasn't found it yet, but I believe Sergio is close to finding that sweet spot where winning becomes a byproduct of that balance.
Harig: At the very least, it is a curious move. Garcia has essentially turned his back on the season-ending bonus structure on both the PGA and European Tours. He skipped the first two FedEx playoff events, competing only at the BMW Championship -- his first event in more than a month. Then after another month away, he's competed in three straight tournaments, is eligible for the season-ending event in Dubai -- and isn't playing. Making it more odd is Garica is expected to play an upcoming Asian Tour event.
Sobel: To paraphrase a line about the old outfielder Manny Ramirez, this is just Sergio being Sergio. The scar tissue from never winning a major and at times being Public Enemy No. 1 for some fans has built up for Garcia to the point where he doesn't care what anyone says or thinks about him. So while skipping FedEx Cup playoff events or Race to Dubai tourneys leaves him open to criticism, that's never going to be a reason for him to only do what he's supposed to do, as opposed to what he wants to do.